The popularity of U.S. Treasury securities as a means of pricing other securities, managing interest rate risk, and storing value is, in part, due to the efficiency and liquidity of the U.S. Treasury market. Any structural changes that might affect these attributes of the market are therefore of interest to market participants and policymakers alike. In this post, we consider how a 2018 change in the minimum price increment, or tick size, for the 2-year U.S. Treasury note affected market quality, following our recently updated New York Fed staff report.
A large volume of financial transactions occur in decentralized markets that commonly depend on a network of dealers. Dealers face two impediments to providing liquidity in these markets. First, dealers may face informed traders. Second, they may face costs associated with maintaining large balance sheets, either due to inventory or liquidity costs. In a recent paper, we study a model of over-the-counter (OTC) markets in which liquidity is endogenously determined by dealers who must contend with both asymmetric information and liquidity costs. This post provides an intuitive explanation of our model and the dynamics of interdealer liquidity.
Rising nonfinancial corporate business leverage, especially for riskier “high-yield” firms, has recently received increased public and supervisory scrutiny. For example, the Federal Reserve’s May 2019 Financial Stability Report notes that “growth in business debt has outpaced GDP for the past 10 years, with the most rapid growth in debt over recent years concentrated among the riskiest firms.” At the upper end of the credit spectrum, “investment-grade” firms have also increased their borrowing, while the number of higher-rated firms has decreased. In fact, there are currently only two U.S. companies rated AAA: Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft. In this post, we examine recent trends in the issuance of investment-grade corporate bonds and argue that the combination of increased BAA issuance and virtually nonexistent AAA issuance both reduces the usefulness of the BAA–AAA spread as a credit risk indicator and poses a financial stability concern.
How should we measure market expectations of the U.S. government failing to meet its debt obligations and thereby defaulting? A natural candidate would be to use the spreads on U.S. sovereign single-name credit default swaps (CDS): since a CDS provides insurance to the buyer for the possibility of default, an increase in the CDS spread would indicate an increase in the market-perceived probability of a credit event occurring. In this post, we argue that aggregate measures of activity in U.S. sovereign CDS mask a decrease in risk-forming transactions after 2014. That is, quoted CDS spreads in this market are based on few, if any, market transactions and thus may be a misleading indicator of market expectations.